Planning Operations Section Chief Karen Scholl shames those resisting evacuation in the Ruth Valley. | Tuesday’s North Zone briefing

No structures have been destroyed in the North Zone of the August Complex in the last two days, after firefighters say that Red Flag conditions and uncooperative residents caused many structures to be lost earlier this week.

Alaska Incident Management Team Planning Operations Section Chief Karen Scholl said that some Ruth and Hettenshaw Valley residents have intentionally disobeyed mandatory evacuation orders, which has caused many of their neighbors’ properties to be destroyed.

“We’ve lost a lot of structures,” Scholl said during a fire update on Tuesday. “Our main focus [should be] structure protection and that has been stalled by people in that area. We’re having to pull [firefighters] off of structures that could be saved in order to provide safety for folks who have not evacuated. That’s putting a real strain on our resources.”

The Ruth Valley on Monday. | Videos by Kale Casey

Alaska Incident Management Team spokesperson Kale Casey told the Outpost that conditions were so dangerous on Monday evening, that a distress call was put out for the California Highway Patrol to help evacuate a number of residents from the Ruth Lake area. The Outpost made numerous calls to find out how many Ruth residents requested emergency evacuations that day. However, no official report is available at this time.

“Over the weekend we had fire burning and dropping ash and cinder,” Casey said. “There were spot fires everywhere.”

While numerous structures are estimated to have been destroyed, conditions are reportedly still too dangerous for Trinity County Office of Emergency Services officials to give an accurate assessment of the damages.

Evacuation orders are still in place for Forest Glen, Hettenshaw Valley, Island Mountain, Kettenpom, Ruth and Ruth Lake, Mad River, Post Mountain/Trinity Pines, Three Forks, Zenia, and all areas south of State Route 36 to the Trinity County line.

“It’s a real big stress for us, and our folks are not feeling good about turning their back on a structure that could be saved in order to help escort somebody to a different place,” Chief Karen Scholl said. “I encourage all of you — if you’re in an evacuated area, please, please evacuate.”

Ruth Lake.

Firefighters have benefited from more favorable winds in the last few days. However, conditions are still hot and dry, with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in lower elevations. 

Dense smoke is also blanketing much of the fire, which is favorable for firefighting conditions on the ground. However, the smoke has also reduced aerial firefighting opportunities. The fire is actively spreading to the north and west.

The entire August Complex is now the largest wildfire in state history, burning 955,513 acres.

“This fire is not going to stop,” North Zone Safety Officer Willie Branson said in an update this afternoon. “This is a long-duration event. It’s almost a million acres. It is something that California has never seen before at this scale. With that, it brings a tremendous amount of complexity. Trying to manage that risk is extremely hard but we have to do it together. That includes the public.”

Map of the north zone. | Alaska Incident Management Team and U.S. Forest Service